Before planning any backyard, block, pool, or patio parties this summer, consult our list of must-haves for 2016. You can probably do without some of them. But do you really want to?
But do you really want to?
Looking for an excuse to get outdoors, go green and celebrate the weekend? Round up some friends and get your hands dirty with a planting party!
Gardening is all about growing locally and building a better community – it gets even better when you throw in some sparkly summer beverages and good company. Whether you’re working with a balcony, backyard, or community plot – planting parties cultivate great conversation, eco-friendly edibles, and lush gardens through the summer and beyond. Here’s how to get the party started:
We all love a good home hack. But these ones are special – they all find another use for standard household items. They’re so simple, we felt a little dumbstruck: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Power cables. Necessary? Definitely. Annoying? Absolutely. How to keep them all straight? Untangled? Organized? How many of us have crawled under a desk to unplug a laptop, only to wonder which cord is which?
Here’s an easy and clever solution: Washi tape. We carry an array of sizes and patterns from Scotch, so you can colour-code and label to your heart’s content.
[More at The Chic Site]
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Who, while preparing food and glancing at an Epicurious recipe, hasn’t leaned an iPad awkwardly against the knife block or cutting board? Right in the spill zone, in other words. Cooking a new recipe can be stressful enough—there’s no need to worry about ruining an expensive device. Protect it with a handy kitchen essential: Slip your iPad into a large Ziploc bag. Sealed, it’ll protect the tablet from any unanticipated messes—and the touch screen works, as normal. (Use the same technique to protect beloved family recipe cards.)
[More at CNET]
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These ubiquitous binder clips have a million uses, but we’re especially fond of this one. Use them to clip wrapping paper right to the roll, one at each end. They were designed for clipping stacks of paper, so it’s a natural extension. You can even devise a hanging system, gaining real space savings from what is usually an unwieldy item.
[More at Good Housekeeping]
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If you’re an appliance junkie, you know how uncooperative these pesky cords can be. Rather than attempting to wrap the toaster cord around the base—it never stays put—before stowing it away, try this: attach the plug to the side of the machine, using a Command Picture Hanging Strip.
No muss, no fuss.
[More at Jen Thousand Words]
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Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on personal emails, the perils of ‘parachuting,’ pancake science, and more—our favourite articles of the week.
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Believe it or not, your safety is on the line every time you hop in and steam up the bathroom. To avoid embarrassment, injury, or worse, the experts at Prevention say you should stay away from…
[More at Prevention]
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Everyone loves pancakes. But it takes more than luck to work out how much batter you need or how to ensure the perfect flip. Here’s a great recipe, along with secret scientific underpinnings that contribute to perfect pancakes. Good luck!
[More at Time Science]
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Having trouble getting people to reply to your emails? The solution, say the experts behind a popular Gmail plugin, is to write as if you’re 9 years old. Short, declarative sentences carry the day. But beware: Excessive simplicity and complexity both diminish your chances of a reply. Messages written at a kindergarten reading level get replies 46 percent of the time; those written at a university level, 39 percent.
Here’s a full list of Boomerang’s email tips:
[More at The Washington Post]
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In a busy household, something always needs cleaning. Everyone wants to avoid scrubbing, but sometimes it seems there’s no other way. Luckily, we’ve gathered some of the cleverest kitchen cleaning tips we’ve found on the web – most of them scrub-free. You’re welcome.
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Both Panini grills and George Foreman grills offer a fun and easy way to take your favourite sandwiches to the next level. Even if the plates are removable or non-stick, grime can build up on them. The trick to keeping your grill shiny isn’t about manual labour – it’s about letting time do its work.
Once your food is cooked, immediately unplug the grill and let it cool for a few minutes. Place a few damp paper towels on the cooking surface and close the lid. The grill’s heat will steam the mess, and by the time you’re done eating, it’ll be a cinch to clean! If you have removable plates, give them a quick wipe in the sink. Give fixed ones a wipe with a wet sponge, then dry them with a dish towel.
[More at The Fun Times Guide]
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Grease marks on a stovetop can be frustrating and embarrassing. For renters, in particular, the burner grates can be a major source of kitchen shame. Unfortunately, grease stains are nearly impossible to avoid. Fortunately, there’s a way to clean them up that requires very little elbow grease (pun intended). You just need two ingredients.
Place your burner grates in the plastic bag and add a small amount of ammonia to the Ziploc, sealing it tightly. Remember, it’s the fumes that do the cleaning, so be sure not to immerse them in liquid. Zip on over to The V Spot for full instructions, and never combine ammonia with any other substances.
[More at The V Spot]
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First, wipe away all the loose food and gunk that’s accumulated with a damp cloth. (While you’re at it, try the technique listed above for cleaning the grates themselves.) Then, when you’re left with just the really stubborn grease and oil that caked onto the surface, try this mixture.
Mix the two into a runny paste, then apply it to the problem spots. Give them a scrub with a Viva Vantage towel—its cloth-like texture makes it great for heavy cleanups. For really stubborn spots, let the paste sit for ten minutes before scrubbing. Repeat as needed.
[More at Practically Functional]
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Over time, cookie sheets tend to get grimy. It’s easy to accept it as wear and tear, or adapt by lining them with parchment paper or tin foil. If you’re patient, however, there’s a great way to get them clean with minimal scrubbing!
Cover the surface of the baking sheet with baking soda, add hydrogen peroxide, and another sprinkle of baking soda. Then, walk away. Hours later, you’ll see that the formula soaked up the grease marks. Pretty great, right?
[More at One Good Thing by Jillee]
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Take a close look at your wooden cutting board. Does it look dry and sad? Does it smell like last week’s stir-fry? Here’s a totally non-toxic way of sprucing up the cutting board! You need only two things.
Start by rubbing a lemon half all over the surface. When it’s damp, sprinkle a generous portion of salt across the board and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Then, rub the salt into the board using that same lemon. (If you need more liquid, give the other half a squeeze.) When all the salt is dissolved, rinse the board, and repeat on the other side, if necessary. When you’re done, wipe a little oil onto the cutting board to seal it.
[More at All Kinds of Yumm]
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For parents, the list of holiday preparations is brutally long—from shopping and baking to tree-trimming and hall-decking. Phew! By the time we’re done, not a few of us are longing to don the PJs and curl up with the kids in the TV’s warm glow—to laugh, or even shed a sentimental tear. Here’s a list of cinema classics, old and new, that never fail to bring the jolly. Sit back and pass the popcorn!
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A modern classic, Elf is pure, goofy fun. It features six-foot-three comic weapon Will Ferrell donning yellow tights and a pointy chapeau to play Buddy the elf. Buddy, as a wee babe, escapes from his orphanage crib, crawling into Santa’s sack—only to find himself at the North Pole, where he grows up believing himself (despite his size) to be an elf.
Farrell’s brilliant physical comedy is squared off against straight man James Caan, who plays his long-lost dad. Elf is warm-hearted, laugh-out-loud funny for kids and adults alike. By film’s end, we bet you catch yourself humming along to a carol or two.
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What list could be complete without the Grinch? We will forever recommend the original version, and not only for the song by Thurl Ravenscroft (listen at left). The 2000 remake, starring Jim Carrey in the title role, is good, but not quite as kid-friendly as the original.
The animated version—based on the 1956 book by Dr. Seuss and narrated by the legendary Boris Karloff—takes just 26 minutes to tell the story of a very grumpy green man who learns to love instead of hate.
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Some will disagree, but for us, only the Alistair Sim version of this classic will do. Sim plays miserly businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart—like the Grinch’s—is several sizes too small.
Proof: He overworks and underpays his clerk, Bob Cratchett, paying no mind to the spiraling health of Cratchett’s son, Tiny Tim. The film’s moral lesson arrives with some supernatural help. Scrooge is visited, on Christmas Eve, by a series of ghosts who scare him silly and give him one last chance to change his life—and he takes it. God bless us, every one.
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This is a fantastic collection for grounding kids in traditional Christmas lore while allowing grownups a nostalgic backward glance. It includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and Frosty Returns. The story of Frosty, of course, is the one that brings a friendly snowman to life with that old silk hat. It’s a delight, too, to hear Jimmy Durante’s distinctive 1969 narration.
Rudolph, with Burl Ives as the narrator/snowman, is a holiday staple, showing that with a bit of luck and the help of friends—like Hermey the aspiring dentist, rip-roaring Yukon Cornelius, and of course, Bumble—outsiders can find their way.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a kind of Christmas 101 for kids, explaining where Santa got his name, why he lives at the North Pole, and the finer points of gift-giving and reindeer flight—all while reminding us that Santa will never give up on us, no matter what. We need these reminders occasionally.
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This Tim Burton-directed film may not (yet) make the list of Christmas classics, but it’s a worthy picture with charm to spare. Burton’s peculiar style is likely to delight kids who appreciate the unusual—those, say, who prefer Halloween spookiness to Christmas sweetness.
Join Pumpkin King Jack Skellington as he tries to ‘share the joy of Christmas’—infused with perhaps a dollop too much oddity. The Nightmare Before Christmas may look scary, but it’s not. It’s suspenseful, imaginative, visually sumptuous, and warm-hearted.
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While too sophisticated for toddlers, A Christmas Story will appeal to younger and older kids—with plenty of amusing moments for Mom and Dad. It’s Christmas in the 1940s, and nine-year-old Ralphie is pining for an official Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun for Christmas. (That’s right, the one with the compass in the stock.)
But Ralphie’s mother dashes his dreams: the rifle is a no-go. “You’ll shoot your eye out” becomes a family refrain, leaving Ralphie despondent and struggling to make sense of Christmas, his more than slightly askew family, and life in general.
Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley (who appears briefly in Elf), carries the film with cheer, persistence and vivid imagination, giving us a window onto what Roger Ebert called the “small but perfect moments” of a child’s life.
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This classic is forever listed as a holiday favourite, owing chiefly to the likable and heartfelt performance of Jimmy Stewart. He plays George Bailey, an ambitious young man who defers his dream of leaving Bedford Falls in favour of doing the right thing—again and again.
When Bailey doubts himself, he receives encouragement from an angel in training, a good turn he later reciprocates. It’s a Wonderful Life is sweet, never saccharine, and argues strongly that, ultimately, kindness and goodness matter most.
Nobody has time to read the whole Internet, so our editors have summarized the best of it for you. Read on for smart advice on toddlers, tantrums, toast casseroles, the travesty of toothbrushing, and more—our favourite articles of the week.
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A nine o’clock bedtime, more than reasonable during the long days of Canadian summer, means putting a kid down some five hours after the winter sun. Is the little one getting enough sleep? Have a look at the handy chart above.
Here are four intelligent bedtime rules to keep:
[More at London Drugs]
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[More at Rodale’s Organic Life]
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